DOJ’s Inspector General Says More Subpoena Power Needed to Protect Whistleblowers

January 28, 2020 by Dan McCue
The Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Justice’s chief internal investigator told a House panel on Tuesday that he and his colleagues across federal departments need more subpoena power to help protect whistleblowers alleging fraud and other malfeasance.

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz offered that assessment in an appearance before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform subcommittee on government operations.

Horowitz, who is also chair of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, described what he called “testimonial subpoena authority” one of that group’s “primary legislative priorities.”

“Without testimonial subpoena authority, an employee’s resignation or retirement can substantially hamper an IG audit, investigation, or other review into matters pertaining to that individual’s former responsibilities, including any action taken against a whistleblower,” he said.

“My office and others throughout the IG community continue to encounter situations where not having this authority results in our inability to obtain important and relevant information from former employees in connection with our whistleblower investigations,” he said.

“Our efforts to promote accountability and deter future misconduct are hampered by our inability to receive testimony from former employees.” 

Horowitz noted that in the 40 years since the passage of the Inspector General Act in 1978, information provided by whistleblowers has played a central role in the ability of Inspectors General to conduct non-partisan, independent oversight of federal programs and operations.

“Accordingly,” he said, “one of my highest priorities, and a critical CIGIE initiative, has been to educate federal employees about the importance of whistleblowing, and to ensure that those who blow the whistle are protected from retaliation.

“The Inspector General community believes that individuals who bring information about waste, fraud, abuse, and gross mismanagement to our offices should be lauded for working within the laws, rules, and regulations that have long existed to encourage and protect whistleblowers,” he said.

Toward that end, CIGIE worked with the Office of Special Counsel to launch a new whistleblower protection web page.

The page provides an interactive form to assist potential whistleblowers in determining where to make a protected disclosure or file a retaliation claim – to an OIG, the OSC, or some other entity.

The site also provides informational resources for individuals in various sectors, including government employees, government contractors and grantees, those in the military, and private-sector individuals. 

Returning to the subject of increasing the subpoena power of Inspectors General, Horowitz said he and his counterparts in government have a responsibility to conduct a thorough and independent assessment of the facts.

“OIG whistleblower investigations not only seek justice on behalf of individual whistleblowers but also seek to deter potential future reprisals and promote accountability for those who have retaliated or engaged in other misconduct,” he said.

“To effectively conduct such investigations, OIGs must have access to all relevant testimony and witnesses, including individuals who may resign or retire during an OIG reprisal investigation,” he said.

Currently only the Department of Defense OIG has the authority to compel testimony from former agency employees in such investigations. Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Strengthening Oversight for Veterans Act, S. 3177, which would grant the Department of Veterans Affairs OIG similar subpoena authority.

Horowitz said he’d like Congress to give these powers to all Inspectors General.

“The IG community understands the potential concerns with granting OIGs such an authority. Accordingly, we support incorporating controls to ensure this authority is exercised properly,” he said.

Employment

Weekly Jobless Claims Fall, But Still Top 1 Million for 16th Straight Week
Employment
Weekly Jobless Claims Fall, But Still Top 1 Million for 16th Straight Week
July 9, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - More than 1.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, a pace that suggests employers continue to lay people off in the face of a resurgent coronavirus. The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of jobless benefits claims did decline from 1.4... Read More

Supreme Court Rules Job Discrimination Laws Don’t Protect Church-School Teachers
Employment
Supreme Court Rules Job Discrimination Laws Don’t Protect Church-School Teachers

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday banned teachers who work at church-run schools from filing discrimination lawsuits against their employers, ruling that the Constitution’s protection for religious liberty exempts church schools from state and federal anti-discrimination laws. The justices, by a 7-2 vote, shielded two... Read More

College Grads Face Uphill Employment Battle Even as Unemployment Rate Declines
Employment
College Grads Face Uphill Employment Battle Even as Unemployment Rate Declines
July 6, 2020
by Sara Wilkerson

WASHINGTON - June is always an anxious time for new graduates, but there’s never been a summer in memory as stark for new job seekers as this one. Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 40 million have lost their jobs, and though the reopening... Read More

Employers Added Nearly 5 Million Jobs in June, Unemployment Eases
Employment
Employers Added Nearly 5 Million Jobs in June, Unemployment Eases
July 2, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - Employers added 4.8 million jobs in June, pushing the nation's unemployment rate down to 11.1%, down from a peak of 14.7% in April, the Labor Department said Thursday. June was the second month in a row of payroll gains after a loss of more... Read More

Bipartisan Coalition Requests Funding for Plugging Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells
Environment
Bipartisan Coalition Requests Funding for Plugging Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells
June 29, 2020
by Sara Wilkerson

WASHINGTON - A Coalition of Democratic and Republican House members have sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to request Congressional funding to plug "orphan" oil and gas wells across the United States.  The letter was co-authored... Read More

US Initial Jobless Claims Worse Than Forecast For Second Week
Employment
US Initial Jobless Claims Worse Than Forecast For Second Week

A higher-than-expected number of Americans sought unemployment benefits for a second week, signaling a slowdown in U.S. labor market improvement. Initial jobless claims in regular state programs fell by 60,000 to 1.48 million last week from an upwardly revised figure the prior week, Labor Department data... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top